Torque Shop

Is it my imagination or are private-hire cars more prone to accidents? I often see such cars with body dents, mostly in the rear? But I rarely see taxis with such damage. Why? Statistically, a private-hire car is twice as prone to accidents as the average family car. But a taxi is more than five times as prone.

That is according to data collated by the General Insurance Association, which measures the percentage of accident reports vis-a-vis the population percentage of a vehicle type.

But the data does not take into account the usage pattern of private-hire cars. A sizeable proportion of private-hire cars may either be unhired, or driven by people who view them as a source of casual income and therefore, do not clock as many kilometres as full-time drivers.

Hence, private-hire cars may appear less accident-prone than taxis.

The dents on their bodywork, however, give a different impression.

Taxi operators have an image to uphold because their names are on the cabs for all to see. Therefore, it is in their interest to fix dents and other damages as soon as possible.

Private-hire cars, on the other hand, do not display the names of the app firms, nor the rental firms the app firms engage. Grab and Gojek, the two dominant private-hire firms here, are not exposed to reputational risk this way.

The trend is worrying though. Because if an operator is not concerned about the physical appearance of its vehicles, it may not be too concerned about their roadworthiness either.

Taxis undergo mandatory six-monthly inspections. They also have a shorter mandated lifespan than passenger cars to take into account their far higher usage.

Private-hire cars, however, are treated more or less like passenger cars.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2019, with the headline 'Torque Shop'. Print Edition | Subscribe